anna brones

writer + artist + activist

Posts Tagged ‘Scandinavian

Jólabókaflóð

leave a comment »

When it’s cold outside, there’s the gentle call of curling up with a book and a mug of tea or coffee (or even a glass of wine or a beer). Reading is wonderful any time of year, but if I was going to pick a reading season, winter would certainly be it; when it’s cold and dark, we want to curl up with a good story.

Maybe it’s the cold darkness of the north that has led to Iceland’s popular Jólabókaflóð, otherwise known as the “Christmas book flood.” Not only are many new titles released this time of year, but the majority of Icelandic book sales happen at this time, everyone prepping to gift a book come Christmas.

The tradition has its roots in World War II, when many imported items were heavily regulated, but paper remained fairly inexpensive. The book became the holiday gift of choice, and it still is today.

It all kicks off when the Iceland Publishers Association distributes a free copy of Bokatidindi  – the annual catalog of new book releases – to every single Icelandic household. It’s a season of book buying and book giving. “It’s considered a total flop Christmas if you do not get a book,” Icelandic writer Yrsa Sigurðardóttir told Read it Forward. Just imagine if children (and adults for that matter) were upset because they didn’t get a book as opposed to whatever new version of iGadget was on their list.

Having a culture of books and reading comes with many benefits. 93% of Icelanders read at least one book a year, compared with only 73% of Americans. (To put that another way, one of of four Americans isn’t reading at least one book a year.) Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, and one out of 10 Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime.

For those of us who don’t live in Iceland, how about creating our own book flood this holiday?

Start by visiting the library. Find a book you didn’t know you wanted to read.

If you read and feel inspired to write, do so.

And finally, in the spirit of not consuming (although, if you are going to buy presents, books are a pretty good option, and remember to be sure to support your local independent book retailer), here’s one final prompt for today to kick of your own Christmas book flood:

Go to your bookcase. Find a book that you loved reading, but are willing to part with. Think of someone who would enjoy reading it. Package it up, and take it to the post on Monday, or gift it to them in person. If there’s one thing better than reading a good book, it’s sharing one with someone else.

This post originally appeared in my 24 Days of  Making, Doing and Being advent calendar. To receive it, sign up for my newsletter

Advertisements

Written by Anna Brones

December 12, 2017 at 10:03

Making Glögg

leave a comment »

“When I first moved to Washington, you couldn’t buy grain alcohol without a prescription…. so I asked my dentist if he could write me one.”

A couple of years ago, a 90-year-old family friend was sharing this anecdote of her glögg making experience (a leftover prohibition thing). Of Swedish heritage, her recipe was one that had been passed down by her father. It always involved grain alcohol, and she insisted upon making it the same way he did. There was no other option. Which is why this sweet woman was in the dentist chair asking if perhaps she could illegally get her hands on some.

This isn’t a story of alcohol, but a story of tradition.

When we attach to a certain recipe, a song, a book, an activity, what we’re really attaching to is a regularity that ensures nostalgia. Tradition is a fixed point on our life journey, one that we can always turn to. It’s also one that shifts with time, evolving as we do, much like a recipe; the origins stay the same, yet we adapt based upon our personal preferences, modernizing along the way, keeping the idea of tradition but at the same time turning it into something new.

Every family has a holiday pastime of some sort. A friend recently shared with me the story of her favorite Nutcracker experience; the classic ballet wasn’t seen at a theatre, but on a television screen in a community hall in a town where she was passing through. And if we don’t have traditions, we often find ourselves making new ones. What we drink, what we eat, what we listen to – these are all things that are imbibed with memories, and memories to come. Traditions tie us to culture and history. They are what keep us alive.

This is not to say that tradition can’t be broken. Certainly, there are times that call for breaking with the norm and creating something new in the process. But I am convinced that it’s not the actual thing that we make or do that is the important part, it’s simply the act of doing it.

***

One of my holiday traditions is glögg. In my family, we don’t drink glögg (i.e. Swedish mulled wine) until the first of advent, and making it is an important affair.

There are many variations of glögg out there. My father makes his with vodka and madeira, and of course, the family friend mentioned above still insists on grain alcohol for hers (the last time she brought a bottle of glögg to a gathering it was in fact in an Everclear bottle, “glögg” marked clearly with a Sharpie marker on a piece of masking tape).

I think tradition is important, because it gives us something to look forward to, something to celebrate. In my home, glögg is a reminder of the season. The smell of spices fills the kitchen, giving a sensory cue to commence the holidays.

If you’re interested in making glögg a part of your own holiday traditions, I’ve got two versions for you: an alcoholic one and a non-alcoholic one. As always, there are many renditions out there, and these happen to be the ones that I make in my kitchen. My basic glögg is strong and sweetened only by the addition of dried fruit. If you like yours a little sweeter, consider adding port, sugar, honey, or even a little freshly squeezed orange juice.

Everyone deserves the chance to make their own traditions. What are yours?

Glögg

1/4 cup chopped figs

1/4 cup raisins

Zest of one orange

2 tablespoons chopped ginger

2 cinnamon sticks

2 teaspoons whole cloves

5 whole green cardamom pods or 2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

1 teaspoon anise seed

1 cup whiskey or aquavit

1 bottle red wine, full-bodied

Optional:
1 cup port or Madeira (this will bring a little additional sweetness to the glögg)
2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar or honey

Garnish:
Blanched almonds
Raisins

Directions:
Place the dried fruit and spices in a glass jar, cover with the alcohol, seal with the lid and let sit overnight (or at least a few hours if you are pressed for time).

Strain the spices and pour the alcohol into a large saucepan along with the red wine (and port or madeira if you are using it).

Heat on medium/low heat until warm, but not simmering. Strain out the spices, then serve warm. **If you want a slightly spicier glögg, then leave the spices in and remove once you have heated it.

This glögg tastes better as it has sat for a bit, so ideally, make it the day before you want to serve it. Once you have heated it, let it cool, and place it in a cool, dark place. When ready to serve, heat it up (but don’t let it boil), pour into small glasses and garnish with blanched almonds and raisins.

If you are entirely short on time (this is the holidays after all!) and in the need for “quick glögg,” add the dried fruit, spices and whiskey to a saucepan and place on medium heat until the alcohol warms up and you can really smell the spices. Add the wine. If you need to sweeten the glögg, stir in a little port, brown sugar, honey or freshly squeezed orange juice.

Non-alcoholic Glögg
Note: This one doesn’t use dried fruit in the base since usually the cordial or juice is sweet enough on its own. Up to you if you want to add more sweetness!

2 tablespoons chopped ginger

2 cinnamon sticks

2 teaspoons whole cloves

5 whole green cardamom pods or 2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

1 teaspoon anise seed

Zest and juice of one orange

1/2 cup water

About 3 cups fruit cordial or juice, ideally something tart like lingonberry or black currant, or even a grape juice that isn’t too sweet

Garnish:
Blanched almonds
Raisins

Directions:
Place the spices, orange juice and water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat, cover and let sit for at least half an hour. Overnight is good too!

Strain out the spices, then pour the liquid back into the saucepan along with the juice. Heat and serve, or heat and let cool, then bottle until ready to serve. When ready to serve, heat the liquid and pour into small glasses, garnish with blanched almonds and raisins.

This story/recipe originally appeared in my 2017 digital advent calendar: 24 Days of Making, Being and Doing. Want to receive it in your inbox? Subscribe to my newsletter. Want more Swedish recipes? Check out my books Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break and Live Lagom: Balanced Living the Swedish Way,.

Written by Anna Brones

December 8, 2017 at 06:00

Preorder ‘Live Lagom’ U.S. Edition

leave a comment »

Earlier this year I wrote a book called Live Lagom: Balanced Living the Swedish Way, published by Ebury Press in the U.K. I am happy to announce that it’s hitting the U.S. market this December thanks to the wonderful team at Ten Speed Press.  It’s officially out on December 26, 2017 which means that you could consider it a belated Christmas present, or also, a kick off to the new year.

What is lagom? It’s a Swedish word that roughly translates to “the right amount.” In other words, not too much, not too little, just that perfect middle ground. It can relate to food, fashion, health, work, social life and beyond. I wrote a little more about the book when it came out in July, which you can read here.

The book is beautifully photographed by Matilda Hildingsson and Nathalie Myrberg and I like to think of it not just as a lifestyle guide about Scandinavian living, but a look at how slowing down and finding balance can help all of us.

Ask your favorite bookstore to order it for you, or preorder it online at your favorite indie retailer (mine is Powell’s.)

Written by Anna Brones

November 10, 2017 at 07:00

Recipe: Chanterelle Tart with Rye Crust

leave a comment »

In Swedish, chanterelles (and other mushrooms that can be found in the forest this time of year) are often referred to as skogsguld, forest gold. Cooking them up in a pan with a little olive oil or butter is as indicative of autumn to me as the changing colors.

I haven’t been out to harvest any chanterelles this season, but fortunately my friend Adam supplies a good stash, and I like sautéing them and serving on top of a slice of rye bread for a simple warm sandwich.

Another good way to put chanterelles to use is in a tart or quiche. I like making savory tarts because they are fairly straightforward and forgiving; just sauté up whatever you want as a filling, pour some whisked eggs on top and call it a day.

For this one in particular, I wanted a flavorful crust to pair with the earthy chanterelles, so I came up with a rye pastry crust. It’s made up of mostly rye flour and a little oat flour.

This is a cozy recipe, perfect for a blustery autumn day with flickering candles on the kitchen table. Leftovers will be perfect for breakfast the next day too, so be sure to save a few slices.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Anna Brones

November 2, 2017 at 10:42

Kanelbullensdag – Swedish Cinnamon Bun Day

leave a comment »

In Sweden, the cinnamon bun gets its very own day: October 4th. Celebrate with a fika today!

I like making cinnamon buns (and more importantly, cardamom buns) with sourdough. Here’s a recipe for sourdough cardamom buns with pear and hazelnut filling to try out.

Or you can try the traditional recipe in my book Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Check out #kanelbullensdag on Instagram for inspiration.

Written by Anna Brones

October 4, 2017 at 08:54

Delightful French and Scandinavian Fare at Måurice Luncheonette in Portland

leave a comment »

Maurice Black Pepper Cheesecake.Anna Brones

When I was recently in Portland I finally got the chance to eat at Måurice, and I was utterly charmed. So much so that I wrote about it over on Foodie Underground.

It’s a sweet space with French and Scandinavian influences, in both the decor and the food. I think I liked it so much because it felt so authentic; nothing was forced, it was all done simply out of love. And of course, everyone wears stripes and they serve fika, what’s not to love?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Anna Brones

June 9, 2015 at 08:27